Why the New Apple HomePod Could Succeed When the First One Flopped

It’s still too expensive, but the world has moved on

  • The new HomePod sounds as good as the overpriced original.
  • But it costs only $50 less. 
  • Privacy and sound quality may matter more than they used to.
Someone holding an iPhone near an Apple HomePod.


Apple is rebooting its full-sized HomePod, but it looks like it hasn't learned any lessons from the failure of the original version.

Apple's original HomePod sounded incredible and brought some genuinely surprising new features to the all-in-one home speaker world. But it cost way too much for a smart speaker and didn't offer enough connectivity options to be considered an audiophile speaker option. Apple sold so few of them that when it finally gave up on them, it was still trying to shift units manufactured years earlier. So, why the reboot? What's changed? Almost nothing—but it may not matter. 

"This strikes me as a risky launch. I am sure it sounds great and works as expected, flaky Siri and all, but it is $300. That is just $50 less than the original model sold for before it was discontinued," writes tech blogger Nick Heer on his PixelEnvy blog.

No Better Blues

While writing about HomePod 2 speculation last year, I said that "even if the HomePod 2 has better controls, an aux-in audio jack, better touch controls, and similarly-good audio performance, even that doesn't guarantee a hit. The price will have to be right, and, well, the Siri factor is still an issue."

Siri has not improved since then, and Apple has not added an audio-input jack to the HomePod 2. The price has dropped, but only from $349 to $299. Given that the HomePod was available for much less than the full price from resellers for much of its life, that's probably still too expensive. 

There are a few improvements. The new units have temperature and humidity sensors inside for home automation use. They also have a Thread radio to support Matter, the new standard home automation protocol. And has sound recognition (if it hears a smoke alarm, it can send an alert to your iPhone, for example). But in terms of audio hardware, the new version seems to be a downgrade.

"I'm super pleased that there is a future for HomePod after the original was canceled," Apple watcher, HomePod fan, and technology geek Kris Lord said in a MacRumors forum participated in by Lifewire. "However, this model doesn't really seem like the future. It's got less speakers (so potentially lower quality than the original), and it's super expensive. Didn't the original model fail to sell mainly because it was overpriced?"

The original HomePod packed in seven tweeters; the new one has only five. It also ditched two of the six microphones found in the original. This, one might assume, would lead to compromised sound quality, which was the one thing that made the original HomePod special. 

But none of this may matter. 

Home HomePods

According to early reviews, the HomePod 2 sounds as good as the original. But as mentioned, the price is really not much different from that of the original. What is different is the world of home audio and home automation. The original HomePod sold into a market where the standard was an Amazon or Google speaker so cheap that you might just add one to your shopping basket on a whim. 

As home automation gets more mainstream, people may be more inclined to spend on a great speaker that’s also a home hub. And more importantly, privacy is only getting more critical. 

The black and white versions of the HomePod 2.


Apple’s HomeKit has one massive advantage over the rest of the home-automation world. It protects your privacy. HomeKit Secure Video, for example, streams your security camera’s recordings, encrypted, straight to Apple’s iCloud servers. The only way to view those recordings, or even the live stream, is to have the key, which only exists on your devices. Compare this to other manufacturers, that may stream video in the clear, or that might store them on servers in an accessible form. 

If you want to get into Apple’s HomeKit, you’ll need a home hub. You used to be able to use a spare iPad for that, but now you need to buy either a HomePod mini ($99), a compatible Apple TV (starts at $129), or the new HomePod for $299. Viewed in that light, with the excellent sound, and the privacy aspect, the HomePod 2 starts to seem more reasonable. 

If all you want is a way to get into HomeKit, then the HomePod mini is still your best bet. But for just a couple hundred bucks more, the HomePod suddenly looks pretty compelling. If only it had a 3.5mm jack to hook it up to older, non-AirPlay audio sources. And would it kill Apple to make it in colors other than black and white?

Was this page helpful?